Honolulu's most romantic bar: L'Aperitif at the Halekulani

Colin Field behind the bar at L'Aperitif, explaining the flavors of his cocktails

Communal tables, big screen TVs, rowdy crowds: most bars in town are more conducive to bachelorette parties or drunken karaoke than they are to romance.

Enter L'Aperitif inside La Mer at Halekulani, which just changed its cocktail menu in favor of lighter drinks that still leave room for a glass of wine with dinner, making it an ideal, romantic pre-dinner spot.

L'Aperitif, recently revamped, is striving to become a destination in itself, rather than a restaurant holding area. Halekulani brought on Colin Field, deemed the best barman in the world by Forbes and Travel and Leisure magazines, and previously the head barman at the temporarily-closed Hemingway Bar in the Ritz Carlton Paris. He's consulting for Halekulani, and he's back in town until February 16th, which means you might glimpse him behind the bar if you go tonight.

Field may be the head barman at The Hemingway Bar, but his style is more Fitzgerald than Hemingway, dramatic rather than spare. Watching him make a cocktail is like theater, as he gently shakes drinks as if cradling a baby, listening to the ice. Yes, listening. "Campari is a paradox—sweet and bitter at the same time," he says, while mixing a cocktail of Campari, port, gin and drops of balsamic vinegar. "This combination evokes the spirit of a femme fatale."

Field introduced L'Aperitif's new signature drink, a vermouth made in house using dry wine from Spain, France and Portugal and infused with herbs and spices, which are kept a secret. Vermouth, experiencing a revival on the mainland, makes for an appropriate drink tonight. As an American vermouth maker said in a recent article, “It’s truly a magical potion that starts out as wine and then it gets resurrected as an erotic aperitif."

For Valentine's Day, Field presents La Rose d'Henri, reminiscent of a classic Negroni cocktail. It's a beautiful red, a blend of gin, cherry liqueur and vermouth, remarkably smooth and light. In case you're spending Valentine's Day at home tonight, here's the recipe:

The Rose d’Henri
1 oz Gin
1 oz Vermouth Noilly Prat
1 oz Martini Rosso
1/2 oz Peter Heering cherry liqueur

Stir gently and serve in a cocktail glass.